End family violence now
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End family violence now

Recent data on family violence in Thailand highlights the urgent need for comprehensive policies to protect the most vulnerable members of our society -- our children, particularly young girls.

Just in a single month -- April to May this year -- the Human Security Emergency Management Centre (HuSEC) provided assistance to 6,655 families. More than half of these cases involved severe family hardships, while almost one-fourth involved family violence.

Minister of Social Development and Human Security, Varawut Silpa-archa, says poverty and family violence are the top emergency issues addressed by HuSEC every month.

The breakdown reveals how children suffer the most from domestic violence due to their powerlessness in troubled families. More than 73% of the victims are females, and over half of these are children, often enduring severe beatings from abusive parents.

Given the Thai saying on child rearing that mimics "spare the rod, spoil the child" -- these figures are not surprising. Evidently, the country's economic stagnation has weakened families, exacerbating domestic violence, with women and children being the main victims.

Minister Varawut has outlined policies to strengthen family finances, hoping it will relieve tensions and improve family relations.

His policies include enhancing work skills, providing credit access for informal workers, integrating labour market data, increasing local job opportunities, and promoting family savings. Others are encouraging work-life balance, and offering tax incentives for employers who provide childcare services and flexible work hours.

However, his policies will most likely fail. For starters, those involving employment, credit, and tax incentives do not belong to his ministry's jurisdiction. Given the siloed management of state agencies and territorial barriers, his ministry has little chance of lobbying the Labour Ministry to follow suit.

Furthermore, his policies fail to address the heart of domestic violence -- patriarchy and authoritarianism. After all, wife-beating and violence against children are not exclusive to poor families; they are deeply rooted in a culture that treats wives as their husbands' property and children as their parents' possessions.

Mr Varawut's policy to promote gender equality in household responsibilities is nearly impossible due to fierce resistance in male-dominated families. The work-life balance goal also remains mere rhetoric when working mothers have to shoulder housework and child-rearing, exacerbating their stress amid financial troubles.

Despite the Domestic Violence Act 2007, wrong-doers often go unpunished. Due to strong traditional values upholding the family institution, the court often supports mediation that keeps the victims in violent families. The cycle of domestic violence continues since the traumatised victims often become the perpetrators themselves when they grow up.

It is unrealistic to expect the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security to cure these deep-rooted issues because its tasks are only to address the symptoms of social ills.

The education system plays a key role in conditioning the populace to accept authoritarianism and gender oppression, strengthening militarism to serve the status quo, and political dictatorship, resulting in worsening inequalities and violence in society. Mr Varawut's concerns are commendable, but tackling domestic violence requires more than good intentions.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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